Large Shrubs or Small Trees for the Home Landscape

News Article

Trees and shrubs are vital components of the home landscape. Most woody plants are clearly either trees or shrubs. However, several plants (because of their intermediate size) can be utilized as large shrubs or small trees. Brief descriptions of several dual-purpose plants are provided below.

Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)

Size: 15 to 20 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3

Leaf Characteristics: Foliage is dark green in summer. Fall color varies from yellow to orange to red.Fruit: The winged fruit (samaras) turn pink to red by midsummer.

Remarks: Amur maples perform best in moist, well-drained soils in partial shade to full sun. Best fallcolor develops in full sun. Often used as hedge.

Suggested Cultivars: Bailey Compact (also referred to as Compactum ) grows 10 to 15 feet talland has yellow to red fall foliage. Embers grows 15 to 20 feet tall, has red fruit in midsummer, and scarlet red fall foliage. Flame has orange to scarlet fall foliage and grows 15 to 20 feet tall.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)

Size: 10 to 25 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are medium green to blue-green in summer. Fall color varies from yellow to orange to red.

Flowers: White flowers are produced in small clusters in early spring.Fruit: Edible, blueberry-like fruit ripen in June. As the fruit mature, they change from green to red to purplish black. They are excellent in pies and other desserts.

Remarks: Serviceberries grow best in moist, well-drained soils in partial shade to full sun. Best fruiting and fall color occur in full sun. Also known as juneberry, shadbush, or sarvis tree.

Suggested Cultivars: Excellent cultivars for the home landscape include Autumn Brilliance Cumulus Princess Diana and Strata .

White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Size: 10 to 15 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are medium green in summer. Fall color is usually poor, occasionally develops an attractive yellow color.

Flowers: White, slightly fragrant flowers are produced on 6-to 8-inch-long, pendulous clusters in May.Fruit: Female plants produce dark blue, olive-sized fruit.

Remarks: Fringetrees are dioecious (either male or female). Flowers are produced by both male and female plants. However, the male flowers are larger. Fruit are produced on female plants. White fringetrees perform best in moist, well-drained soils that are high in organic matter. Best flowering occurs in full sun.

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Size: mature height and spread is 15 to 25 feet

Hardiness Zone: 3

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are medium to dark green in summer. Fall color is reddish purple.

Flowers: Small, creamy white flowers are produced in flat-topped clusters in late spring.

Fruit: Berry-like fruit change from green to red to blue-black.

Remarks: Ornamental characteristics include a horizontal branching habit, creamy white flowers,and reddish purple fall foliage. Plants require a cool site and moist, well-drained soils. Grows best in partial shade.

Corneliancherry Dogwood (Cornus mas)

Size: 20 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide

Hardiness Zone: 4

Leaf Characteristics: Foliage is dark green in summer. Fall color is inconsistent, occasionally purplish red.

Flowers: Small, yellow flowers are borne in round, 3/4-inch-wide clusters in early spring.

Fruit: Oblong, 5/8-inch-long, berry-like fruit turn cherry red in summer. Fruit are edible.

Remarks: Corneliancherry dogwood is an adaptable, durable, and relatively pest free large shrub or small tree.

Suggested Cultivars: Golden Glory is an upright, heavily blooming variety that is hardy to Zone 5.

Winged Euonymus or Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

Size: 10 to 15 feet tall with a similar spread.

Hardiness Zone: 4

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are medium to dark green in summer. Fall color is bright red.

Flowers: Plants produce small, yellowish green, inconspicuous flowers in spring.

Remarks: One of the most widely grown shrubs in the home landscape. Best fall color develops in full sun. Can be pruned into small tree.

Suggested Cultivars: Compactus and Nordine Strain are smaller species.

Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Size: 15 to 18 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are medium green in summer, bright yellow in fall.

Flowers: Blooms in fall (October to early December). The yellow, strap-like petals unfold on warm days and curl up on cold days.

Remarks: Plants can be grown in sun or shade. They prefer moist, well-drained soils.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Size: 10 to 12 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4

Leaf Characteristics: Foliage is dark green in summer. There is little or no fall color.

Flowers: Plants produce white, fragrant, 3-to 4-inch-diameter flowers in April.

Remarks: Flowers are often damaged by a late frost or freeze. Damaged flowers quickly turn brown. Southern exposures encourage early bloom and should be avoided. Eastern exposures are often best. Star magnolias perform best in moist, well-drained soils in full sun.

Suggested Cultivars: Centennial has white flowers with a slight pink tinge. Royal Star and Waterlily have pink buds that open to white flowers.

Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)

Size: 10 to 15 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 5

Leaf Characteristics: Leaves are dark green in summer. Fall foliage varies from red to purple.

Flowers: Creamy white flowers are produced in flat-topped, 2-to 4-inch-diameter clusters in May.

Fruit: Berry-like fruit are bluish black at maturity. Edible.

Remarks: Blackhaw viburnum can be grown in sun or shade. Plants can be grown as large shrubs or pruned and trained into single-stemmed small trees.

Other large shrubs or small trees include Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens), Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum), American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), and panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata).

The hardiness zones mentioned in this article are based on the map developed by the USDA.

This article originally appeared in the 5/2/2003 issue.

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